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Three months on: Rudd's EU for Asia is unloved and unwanted.

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The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 22 September 2008)

In the three months since Mr Rudd unveiled his half-baked, hasty plan for a European Union style community for the Asia - Pacific the idea has been ridiculed and dismissed in the region while the Prime Minister has failed to give any further explanation.

“The Government is spinning its wheels on so many policy areas, including the critical foreign affairs portfolio,” said the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP.

“Three months ago today, in the Prime Minister’s desperation to have something to say when he went overseas he delivered a speech which we now know was a rushed cut-and-paste job.

“He trotted out his plan that by 2020 he would reorganise the architecture in the Asia - Pacific into a European Union style community.

“Since that time we have heard a lot from the Prime Minister about what his plans for an EU for Asia are not - but we still don’t know what it is.

“The Prime Minister now tries to say that it isn’t along the lines of a European Union, but when he first started talking about it he said he wanted ‘…East Asia having the regional equivalent of the European Union over time’. Everyone is confused.

“Since this proposal has been announced there has been embarrassing revelation after embarrassing revelation.

“In the discussions I have held with people right across the region including visits to Washington, Jakarta, Papua New Guinea and Singapore, no one has raised this proposal with me and nobody in these countries knows enough about it to discuss it when it is raised with them.

“There have also been negative comments made about Mr Rudd’s proposal from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

“India didn’t even know anything about it until it was raised with them by the Australian media. The US, New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia were not consulted before it was announced.

“Foreign missions based in Canberra can’t even get any detailed information on this proposal out of the Government.

“And the Prime Minister’s chosen envoy, Mr Woolcott, was only told two hours before the announcement and there have been no staff or funds allocated to make it work.

“I have no idea what Mr Woolcott is telling people he meets overseas because he has been put in the unfortunate position of not having any detail.

“This would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious. It reflects very poorly on Australia.

“On top of that, Mr Smith also seems confused about exactly what Mr Rudd is proposing by saying it could be either ‘evolution or the creation of a new body’.

“This stands in sharp contrast to last weekend’s comments by Mr Rudd that this proposal would be ‘a modest evolution of what already exists’ and ‘centred institutionally on APEC’.

“This is no different to the Howard Government proposal to include India in APEC and aim for closer regional ties.